New Generation Party

2008: the final year of radical right populism in Romania?

As a result of the November 30 parliamentary elections in Romania, the two major radical right populist parties have disappeared from the main political stage. The newly introduced electoral system, that of mixed member proportional representation (MMP), produced some interesting results.

As such, the Greater Romania Party (PRM) that since 1991 has represented the radical right pole in Romanian politics, failed to attain the 4% threshold for any of the chambers of the Romanian Parliament. With less than half a million votes, PRM managed to poll 3.15% for the lower Chamber of Deputies, and 3.57% for the Senate. This practically interrupted Vadim Tudor’s, PRM‘s unquestioned leader, presence in the Romanian legislative fora.

The other populist contender, the New Generation Party (PNG-CD), had an even poorer performance. With only 2.27% of the votes for the Chamber of Deputies, and 2.53% for the Senate, the party was confined to a presence at local level ( where it received some 1203 seats in the local councils, of 37,915 nation-wide). As a consequence of these results, the party announced that it entered a period of “preservation” (link in Romanian). George Becali, the colorful leader of PNG, failed to become a Romanian version of Silvio Berlusconi. Even though he is the main shareholder of the Steaua football club, a name in Romanian football, he did not manage to use this successfully in politics.

But does this mean that radical right populism is a thing of the past in Romanian politics? Or is this just a sign that radical attitudes have permeated the political mainstream? Populism has been long assigned to political center stage in Eastern Europe, and Romania is no exception. However, the presence of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR/RMDSZ) in the governing coalitions in the 1996/2000, 2000/2004, and 2004/2008 mandates, ensured that the radical right with its xenophobic manifestations was only peripheral. But the new grand coalition, that gathers together the Romanian Social Democrats (PSD) and the Liberal Democrats (PLD) could not accommodate the presence of UDMR/RMDSZ in the governing architecture. Surprisingly enough, it was PSD the party that officially requested their expulsion from the partition of ministerial portfolios. Romanian political analysts have generally labeled this as the party’s “hunger for the public money”, and unwillingness “to divide the governmental cake”.

But what if this is a disguised return to xenophobic populism? After all, PSD governed with PRM and other two xenophobic parties in the 1994/1996 mandate. 2009 is definitely going to be a very interesting year on the Romanian political scene.

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Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 Research No Comments